Sam Lewis explores the Middle Eastern resort with a progressive, beach club atmosphere
The therapy to try
Bahrain may be the smallest nation in the Middle East but there’s nothing parochial about this spa resort. The spa menu features a variety of Middle East-inspired body treatments, including exfoliation and mud wraps, but also a full range of ESPA facials. If, like me, you prefer the simpler things in life, opt for a relaxing or deep muscle massage.
With a multicultural staff drawn from over 50 nations, there’s an international flair that permeates all levels of the resort. In a valiant attempt to release the knots in my shoulders, my therapist amalgamated several massages into one, using warm volcanic stones and a variety of Thai-inspired stretching techniques to alleviate some of the tension in my neck and back.
At first glance the spa appears to be a bustling enclave, but venture down a few corridors and you’ll discover a serene, light and airy thalassotherapy pool (women only) and dimly lit hamam (mixed) with four plunge pools set at different temperatures.
Adjacent to the spa is a sports centre with squash and tennis courts, an indoor pool and two gyms (mixed and female-only) with a large number of free classes (yoga, spin and HITT) that, during my visit, had attracted a substantial number of expats.
Mature gardens and views over a pristine (man-made) private island mean guests may actually forget they’re in the epicentre of a city with the country’s second-largest shopping mall (Seef) just around the corner.
There’s a secluded yet convivial beach club atmosphere here, which is hard to find at other hotels in Bahrain. This perhaps explains why The Ritz-Carlton is by far the most popular expat hangout, with many of them coming here from Saudi Arabia at weekends, via a 16-mile causeway from. You’ll see a fair number of locals too. Alcohol flows, and cool beats are played by female DJs while guests relax in the sun.
With 11 restaurants (and a variety of good local ones nearby) this is a haven for foodies. Authenticity is taken seriously and at four of the best restaurants — Primavera (Italian), Cantina Kahlo (Mexican), Nivana (Indian) and Thai (Asian) — approximately 80% of the staff hail from the country where the cuisine derives, with each eatery decked out with authentic furniture and artefacts.
Opt for a room on the higher levels or, budget permitting, one of the 21 club suites with seventh-floor club lounge access for views of the Arabian Gulf, super-quick check-in/check-out and free snacks and alcoholic drinks throughout the day and evening.
The best accommodation, however, is by far the 23 three-bed villas with private plunge pools, beach and 24/7 butler.
Singles, couples or families (there’s a substantial kids’ club) — anyone who wants to wriggle their feet in the sand and chill out in an upmarket, resort-style atmosphere and chose from a wide range of international restaurants. New initiatives include a food festival planned for spring 2018 with celebrity chefs and food stations, while boat trips can now be arranged to visit local islands, to spot dolphins and dive for pearls.
Double rooms from BHD135 (£265) for room only and BHD 143 (£280) with breakfast.